Sunday, December 19, 2010

I like to read fiction.

As of today, I have completed one more item on my 30 Before 30 list:  

#8. Read 25 books in one year... DONE!

I started in April and intended to read 25 books in a twelve-month period.  2010 was a good year for reading, though, what with all those hours I spent nursing a baby.  So I'm giving myself bonus points for reaching my goal in eight months.

I tried to choose a fairly wide variety of books.  Some were on my always-wanted-to-read list, some were parenting books I read out of desperation (ha!), some I stumbled upon because the library didn't have what I really wanted.  I found several new favorites and a few duds.

Soon I'll feature the nonfiction, but below is the list of fourteen fiction books I read this year.  I've listed them in the order that I would recommend them -- the first one was my favorite, and the last was my least favorite.  I ranked them strictly on how much I enjoyed them as a reader (not as an English teacher or literary critic).  Check out my list and tell me what you think.  Have you read any of these?  Do you agree with my assessments?  Have I convinced you to read/not read any of them?

Day for Night (Frederick Reiken)
Includes multiple plotlines (some involving the Holocaust) and multiple narrators.  Could be a disaster, but it's brilliant.  Loved it.  I'm pretty sure I cried because I loved it so much.

The Help (Kathryn Stockett)
Set in pre-Civil Rights Mississippi.  Tells the story of several black housekeepers, the women who treat them heinously, and the women who don't.  Multiple narrators again.

Girl with a Pearl Earring (Tracy Chevalier)
Fictional story behind the Vermeer painting by the same title.  Told from the perspective of Griet (the Girl in question), who has just become a servant in the Vermeer house.  Period fiction is really not my genre, but I loved this book. 

The Bell Jar (Sylvia Plath)
Sure, Sylvia Plath was all kinds of crazy, but she could sure write.  Assumed to be autobiographical, this book follows a young woman as she goes insane.

The Pilot's Wife (Anita Shreve)
Newly-widowed pilot's wife learns all sorts of terrible things as she looks into her husband's death.  Drama, drama, drama.  But in a good way.  Definitely skip this one if you are actually a pilot's wife, though.

Belong to Me (Marisa de los Santos)
City girl moves to the suburbs.  Chaos ensues.  I'll admit it has a predictable, chick-lit vibe, but de los Santos gives her characters really amusing, relatable voices.  FUN read.

Water for Elephants (Sara Gruen)
Old man flashes back to his younger years, when he was part of a shady traveling circus.  Entertaining stuff.

Clay's Quilt (Silas House)
I had an idea in my head of what the hills of eastern Kentucky are like, but there is some messed-up stuff going on there.  At least in the picture this book paints.  Good read.  Definitely not cheesy like some hill-country novels.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime (Mark Haddon)
Told from the perspective of a teenage boy with autism.  Sort of a murder mystery?  Really funny, but not in an offensive, making-fun-of-this-boy way.  Quick read, worth your while.

Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules (ed. David Sedaris)
Compilation of some of Sedaris's favorite short stories.  I'm a sucker for a good short story, but don't expect these to be funny just because David Sedaris likes them.

The Bean Trees (Barbara Kingsolver) 
Young woman heads West to start a new life, and ends up having to care for an abandoned baby.  A little on the sappy side, but I enjoyed the book overall.  I loved Kingsolver's Poisonwood Bible when I read it several years ago.  Read that one if you haven't.

Girl in Translation (Jean Kwok)
Chinese girl and her mom immigrate to New York and face all the hardships you might expect, including work at a sweatshop.  Not a bad read, but feels like an unrealistic American Dream story.

Birds of America (Lorrie Moore)
Another collection of short stories, but all by Moore.  I picked this one because I loved her story "People Like That Are the Only People Here: Canonical Babbling in Peed Onk."  I was disappointed in most of the other pieces in this book.

All Families are Psychotic (Douglas Coupland)
Crazy, far-fetched story of the mostly unlikable members of a dysfunctional (to say the least) family.  Entertaining, but way too crass for my taste.  If you can't peel your eyes away from the tabloids in the grocery line, this might be up your alley.


Jan Giles said...

LOVED "The Help"! Read it in a day and a half and planned to reread it again over the break.

Read "The Bell Jar" in college, but not since.

Most of the rest of the books you mentioned are ones I have never even heard of but may look up!

Beverly said...

I am a reading fiend so I am so happy about your recommendations. Loved The Help; found The Curious Incident absolutely fascinating, enjoyed Belong to Me, loved Water for Elephants, read the Pilot's Wife so long ago I don't remember it much and haven't read the rest. I had Girl in Translation on a list to read, but maybe now I will skip it. Can't wait to pick up Day for Night and will reconsider Girl with Pearl Earring (period fiction is not really my thing either) now that you have recommended it.

Looking forward to your non-fiction list!

Megan said...

I'm soooo jealous. I fell so behind on my 50 in a Year goal ... thanks, grad school. Grrrr ...

Will try again next year!!! And will try to use some of the titles you listed (I've read quite a few that you had this year as well). HUGS!!!!

Micah said...

Megan, your reading goal was the reason I put this on my 30 Before 30 list. I am only half as ambitious as you are, though :) Actually, even less than half because I'm not also in grad school. AND I read Clay's Quilt and The Bean Trees because you featured them on your blog.

Basically, I'm saying that you are my reading hero whether you read 50 books or not :)

Erika said...

I think I must be the only woman in America who hasn't read The Help yet. And until you posted your summary, I was unaware that it was set in Pre-Civil War times. In my mind it was set in modern-day Manhatten, a la The Nanny Diaries (read that if you haven't. Hilarious!!) Interesting what things my mind can make up!